InterbrandHealth’s Dominic Leung spoke to an audience in the Sports Nutrition track about changes in athletics and wellness and how brand can play an important role in addressing consumers’ changing desires. I caught up with Dominic after to get a bit more insight into the millennial audience and how a strong brand can help to attract and penetrate this desirable segment. — Nicole Diamant, InterbrandHealth
ND: Dom, your presentation at the conference focused on changes in the sports nutrition marketplace. It’s an industry that’s been around for so long, with major legacy players, and it continues to grow. To what do you attribute this growth?
DL: In the supplement industry, the big players created a category through a single ingredient—that’s how category creation was traditionally done. And that’s how market leadership saw success. As a result of that, many players came in, replicating those ingredients to take a piece of the pie. Rather than causing the industry to plateau from a sales perspective, this heightened activity actually populated it. There’s more share, constant growth and nutrition is still one of the largest growing categories—except the people who created the category are not benefiting from the overall growth.
ND: Why aren’t they growing along with everyone else? Shouldn’t their history in the category buy them some loyalty? What’s shifting perception in the space, and how can they get back on track?
DL: The overall growth is being driven by a new ideology around what those ingredients enable, both through fitness and health—not about their functionality which is what the established brands are accustomed to focusing on. So for brands that created the category to maintain leadership and capitalize on the market growth, they need to not rest on the legacy of the category they created but redefine it through the lens of the millennial voice.
The brand needs to reflect who they want to be and how they see themselves—as much as it delivers on functional benefits. That means tapping into this new attitude and mentality—that health and fitness are the enablers to express who they (millennials) are. It’s only when brands address this change in mindset that they can attract the millennial audience and regain their leadership positions.
ND: What else should a supplement brand consider when marketing to millennials in this space?
DL: Millennials are about transparency. This has been a struggle with ingredient and supplement brands because it’s not a regulated industry. There are many questions around credibility and product claims—does it really do what it says, is it safe, etc. But brand can be an essential tool in bridging this credibility gap for millennial consumers. Brand can play a role in helping deliver on that transparency; ingredient branding can help consumers understand why an ingredient is different or special. This helps to carve out differentiation, build trust and, ultimately, avoid commoditization.
ND: So once a brand has committed to this new role in a consumer’s life, it would seem that the pool of competition has broadened. The more a brand aligns with a lifestyle value proposition, the more fighting it may do against established players in the space. What are the watch-outs when making this transition to maintain standing?
DL: It’s imperative to create the link between the supplement and what it enables, and that’s where brand comes in. Even the language—the word “supplement”—is a hindrance here. We have to change the conversation and use our lexicon in new ways: a supplement is not to fulfill a nutritional gap. It’s to enable a different, or greater, capability.
Branders and marketers have to start connecting ingredients to the greater story of enablement in a consumer’s life, not the nutritional gap or the functional thing. It’s the only way to play—and succeed—in the broader space.
This interview originally appeared on brandchannel.